CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jimmie Johnson had a flat tire, fell a
lap down and finished 14th at Dover International Speedway.
But when the defending Nextel Cup champion crossed the line, he
radioed a congratulatory message to his crew: "This is how you win a championship."
Yes, Johnson was aware his bumpy ride cost him the points lead
Sunday. But in salvaging a day that seemed destined for a dismal
finish, Johnson said he believes his Hendrick Motorsports team laid
the groundwork for a title run.
"What a wild one," he said. "From my experience, we got that
flat tire early and weren't able to get the lap back, couldn't
catch the leaders. I mean, we were going to finish 29th -- at best.
But the guys kept working, and we raced our own race and pulled out
a decent finish.
"Those are the kind of days that win championships."
Johnson dropped to fourth in the standings but is only four
points behind leader Jeff Gordon, his teammate.
"That's leading one lap," he said. "If we lead one lap, we're
back in the points. To leave Dover, after a day like that, in that
position, is pretty impressive. You know, I suppose if we lose the
championship by two points, I'll look back and say 'Dover cost us
"But right now, I feel pretty good about where we are at."
Johnson's Q&A with AP auto racing writer Jenna Fryer:
Q: Race winner Carl Edwards and teammate Matt Kenseth were
really stout. The Roush cars lagged behind so much earlier this
season in the Car of Tomorrow, so what do you make of their
JJ: "The Roush guys were in a whole different race of their own
on Sunday. You knew they'd get it figured out. They are a good
company and you can't keep them down. And it's too unlike Matt to
not be in the mix of things."
Q: Denny Hamlin had some issues with Kyle Petty, and they had a
confrontation after. Denny really took exception to it, and argued
that in his two seasons, he's not really driven over anyone. What's
JJ: "That's the thing that surprised me. I have been impressed
with Denny over the two years I've raced against him, because he
has a good balance of points racing and aggression. I've always
commended him for being as young as he is and the amount of
composure he maintains. I've never had a run-in with him."
Q: Lots of complaints after Dover about the Car of Tomorrow.
What did you think?
JJ: "I don't think there's anything new to it. It's the same
stuff we have been fighting, and Dover just re-aggravated all of it."
Q: Your wife made some T-shirts of your high school yearbook
photo for your birthday last week, and you worried they might show
up at the track. Any images of that senior year mullet show up in Dover?
JJ: "They didn't. I don't know how or why, but they haven't yet
made it to the track. Channy didn't make that many, so it's not
like they are for sale or anything. But my crew and some friends
have asked about them. Luckily, not that many exist."
Q: I understand you are moving into a new apartment in New York
JJ: "Yeah, we've been moving this month and trying to get situated. We had been renting for quite a while and just closed on
the place. And now we're going through all the wonders of a new place."
Q: Moving during the Chase? Who's bright idea was that?
JJ: "I guess it's something to keep my mind off of racing."
Q: Are you allowed to do any of the decorating?
JJ: "The woman certainly controls the majority of it. I don't
claim to be a decorator by any stretch of the imagination. But
Channy and I do have similar tastes and I am involved in a small
degree. We're doing more of what you would think of for a New York
City loft -- it's contemporary, masculine. Very nice. And very
different from our house in Charlotte. It's more French -- what do
you call it? Not French Country. But something. It's a lot of the
things I've seen in Europe and liked. Channy tried to create some
of that in our Charlotte house."
Q: So where do you spend most of your time? The house in
Charlotte, or the new loft in New York City?
JJ: "We're primarily in Charlotte, although we've been up here
in New York City for three weeks now, maybe going on four. But I
think when it all shakes out, we end up only being here about six
weeks a year. Charlotte is our home."